Sunday, November 29, 2009

Exercise Anytime, Anywhere, In Any Circumstances, In Any Condition

Where I parted company with most contemporary, conventional thinking on exercise, is in all the conditions that have been imposed that eventually prove to be the barriers and hindrances to that exercise (participation) -- because those specific conditions (requirements) or equipment is not available -- and so one has a ready excuse for not doing it today, tomorrow, and inevitably, forevermore.

Among those requirements, are the presence of an instructor, in a specific setting, with a particular brand of equipment -- like a Nautilus machine, a treadmill, a rowing machine, a Pilates machine, stretching bands, and all the other paraphernalia and ritual people come to associate with such self-improvement, which is rather, the cultivation of greater dependence and inadequacies of their own making.

And thus it is possible for those with much, to feel that they have very little, or nothing at all, if everything is not up to their expectations or requirements for that perfect workout, which they come to "blame" more and more on the inadequacies and shortcomings of the gym owner -- than their own lack of ownership and commitment to their own activities. In like manner, the imperfect musician is likely to blame their instrument for not being perfectly tuned, or the athlete their bicycle for not going fast enough, or being light enough -- when the obvious deficiency is much more in their skill than in the state of the art of the equipment.

One of the great revelations and insights I had in working not with gifted athletes on these matters, but rather those regarded as terminally ill and dying, is that there was still the possibility of improvement in whatever possible condition they were in (to my mind) -- that the present moment, was the possibility and opportunity for great improvement of their functioning, well-being, and sense of progress, and in making that improvement, was the meaning and purpose of every life, in whatever condition they are in. That gives meaning and purpose to every life, no matter what they do, whatever their capabilities.

Physical exercise, is just the easiest and most apparent action they have available to them, at all times, anywhere, in any circumstances, in any condition -- and they shouldn't then impose arbitrary requirements to ruin or create barriers to those moments of great opportunity for exploration, experience, and improvement.

I discovered that the secret of muscular contraction, lay in the movement at the extremities of which movement is usually possible even in the dying or greatly restricted. It is just a step above the vital signs of light -- and often used to detect voluntary responses. "Squeeze my hand if you understand what I am saying." In such uncertain conditions, one would not ask that one lift their bedridden leg to show that responsiveness, but one would be surprised at the physical therapists and doctors who will set such a standard for a response.

Next in line, would of course be the exercise instructors who demand that when they say "Jump," one only ask, "How high?" before complying unhesitatingly. It might even be regarded as insubordination and intransigence to ask, "How far?"

In like manner is the demand that productive movement must raise the heartbeat, increase calorie consumption, produce sweating, and other signs of great distress and discomfort as the only trigger for the body's response to improved functioning -- even if they are presently negatively impacting that functioning -- with the thought that it evokes an equal, opposite reaction, rather than that optimal functioning can be directly achieved. Otherrwise, one goes about a tortuous, roundabout manner, seemingly to lack any logic, to achieve what one hopes to, and in this manner, greatly obscuring and confusing one's objectives, or measurements of what they think they are effecting. Such practitioners will even proudly claim the opposite is what they hoped to achieve, but then, any claim becomes possible in their rationalizations and generalizations about everything.

Such people, are unlimited energy drains -- and should be avoided, once those predilections have been conclusively enough detected. Life is too short to waste much of one's time and energy in the hopeless.

Thus it is quite possible, to exercise fairly thoroughly without even getting out of bed, or at any time, place, circumstances, or condition one is in. Many will claim that one must travel far to find the great master instructor before one can embark on the proper quest for self-improvement and awareness, but that journey and quest, lies entirely within each individual's capabilities and understanding -- if the mind is just quiet and empty enough, to see the fullness of it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Universal Body Language: The Exultation

When my good friend Ken Leistner (High-intensity Training) and I used to hang out together in New York and Boston in the '70s, and talk about training ideas as we wandered all over the cities gesticulating our points, we'd invariably spot an individual who stood out and apart from the masses of people, and note to one another, that that person must be "somebody" -- to stand out in that way, just in moving about in their daily business. That individual would usually see us coming and seem to read our thoughts and expressions as they greeted us knowingly with a smile as though familiar old friends.

It is also well known that in the animal kingdom, accomplished predators are those that can pick out the weak (and probably also the strong) just in their "normal" movements, so as to predispose their success ratios, and avoid risky encounters and maneuvers. That is a large part of the survival of the fittest -- that before they challenge another, they know fairly well the probable capabilities of the other -- while those who are less successful at such judgments, usually aren't around for very long.

In human societies, we usually only notice such overt behaviors in the fields of athletic competition most familiarly, and in "professional wrestling," as a parody or caricature of those basic human tendencies. The most familiar, is raising one's arms in victory and triumph -- before the matches even begin.

In "real" competitions, people are generally not so brash and flamboyant -- except when acknowledging their own quite extraordinary and unbelievable accomplishment -- usually when they set a world's record. Then everybody expects it -- and it would be almost a violation of protocol to deprive everyone of such moments of triumph -- because it marks a milestone not only as an individual, but establishes new ground for all mankind -- and thus both arms poised defiantly towards the sky, announces that great triumph for all mankind to bear witness.

Such expressions of joy and dynamism, is also available and allowable to everyday living, to a much greater extent than most people think possible. Probably only those whose professions or avocations approve of such flaunting -- are the competitive forums of gymnastics, where walking to the start, is just as important as the event performance itself. One has to make a majestic entrance worthy of their performance -- because at such competitions, many things are going on simultaneously, and one is also competing for that attention. It's less pronounced at track meets -- but certain especially charismatic individuals, manage to direct all eyes and ears, to their performance.

Shakespeare was one to point out that all of life was a stage in this way -- so one should put on their best performance as though even God was watching. But modern psychologists and students of behavior and performance, know that caring deeply oneself, is the primal driver to any excellence. One has to first care deeply themselves, to then be able to convince anyone else, that they know what they are doing -- and showing that confidence. Many times, assessments are based mainly on that confidence and flair, than for the actual execution, if done without that conviction. Human beings, after all, are influenced by the thinking of others -- in deciding for themselves, whether something is good, bad or indifferent.

Such judgments are an interaction and communication between people -- and no longer just the practice in isolation and privacy. But what one practices, is what one becomes good at. If one is in the habit of thinking that one is not good enough, as their own motivation, they will convince others of those thoughts also. Some even undermine and contradict everything they ever do -- and so despite all that they do, have nothing substantive to show for it, because they cancel every positive with an immediate negative. That is their value system and cosmology of what they think the universe is all about -- a positive action immediately canceled out by a equal, and opposite reaction. Such people invariably pride themselves in their understanding of the nature of duality and think it is a higher understanding yet, to fragment, divide and compartmentalize every aspect of reality so that it no longer has its essential wholeness.

In their conditioning activities, they will choose to define their objective, as "burning" as many calories as possible, rather than in any constructive manner of building something worthwhile -- and thus realizing, the need to go about it in the most energy-, time-, and resource-efficient manner possible.

It turns out that one of the most useful exercises (movements) to do is simply to raise one's arms up in triumph for 50 repetitions -- as one would do in a commonly performed movement called the overhead press, or lifting a weight overhead to arm lockout. However, added weight is not necessary to obtain superior results. The expression itself, which is not ordinarily performed except in the press, done without weight but rotating the fist in the knuckleward direction, effects the maximal contraction of the dorsal (backside) line of the body in a comprehensive and integrated way, that is a much better movement than virtually any other exercise (movement) or athletic activity done to merit this supreme posture of victory -- that states emphatically, one is a "winner."

One might as well start at the top -- to go higher.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Being Young and Being Healthy, Are Two Different Things

The young are not necessarily healthy, but the healthy can be so at any age. Age does not imply illness, disability and malfunctioning. However, what the young and the old do and can do, are two totally different manifestations of human possibility.

The adults of any species, don't do what the young of that species do -- because what is appropriate and intelligent behavior and functioning, depends on their understanding capacities. In the young, they are trying to discover what those capacities are, whereas in an adult, one should have a fairly good idea of what their capabilities are, and so just making the same mistakes they did when they were just starting out on the lifelong journey of discovery and actualization, would not be considered understandable behavior -- but ignoring and denying the realities one has experienced as the actualities of their existence.

Not everyone is destined and designed to be the leader of the pack, but for everyone to think so, would be so disruptive as to quickly lead that community into extinction. In a well-functioning society, people have to eventually realize what roles and functions they better serve -- and not everyone demand to be the quarterback, lead singer, chief executive officer.

In similar fashion, everyone serves society best when they recognize the skills and liabilities they bring to the community -- at the appropriate time. It would behoove every society for the fully mature, to simply act as newborns -- thinking that is how they actualize their potential. That potential emerges and evolves with the exercise of them -- and so an essential quality and component of every exercise worth doing, is that it evolves into a higher and deeper understanding of what they are doing and their ultimate limits at it -- and not simply repeating every movement as though an unimproving machine.

That is the different between machines and living, growing organisms: one improves while the other can only deteriorate. So the concept that is important, is whether one is improving, or getting worse -- and knowing the difference. Obviously, those who think they can only remain the same, have no understanding in the value of life. They have eliminated every possibility of improvement and evolution -- to regard themselves as unvarying machines, who will only know deterioration and decline.

Many people don't recognize that there is always this change, and changing -- as the essential quality and difference of life, until it is too late, and they realized they have changed but they did not ensure that they would do so in an advantageous and beneficial way. Thus, when they are least prepared for it, change overwhelms them, and they are usually driven henceforth, by change not of their own design and desires, but have become the pawns of those who gladly control the fate of others. Such personalities, are also an unhealthy development in human beings because they prey on the vulnerabilities of others -- generally those who have not effectively and sufficiently matured in their own mastery of their lives.

So the challenge of the future is not how can the old remain young, as though that was the indication of health, but how do we actualize and manifest health, at every stage of life appropriately to benefit from all these fulfilled and actualized talents and abilities of healthy human personalities and societies? This is the point lost in many discussions on health and well-being -- that people think that simply remaining immature, unrealized, and unfulfilled, is the highest possibilities in society, let alone, a healthy one.

Does an 80 year old need to run a marathon once a month or once a year, or at even at all, to be in healthful conditioning -- while the many who still try to, are the cause of their own injuries, disabilities, and inappropriate and unnecessary wear and tear -- often causing their own pain and misery. One asks, "Does it necessarily have to be that way?," or are there ways of being much better, we have not even become to imagine -- because it hasn't been done that way before?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Great Way to Shake the Winter Blues

It's Vitamin D. Until very recently, doctors warned against taking more than 400 IU per day, and now the new recommendation is that everyone can tolerate 10,000 IU of the sunshine vitamin. It used to be the quandary that no more than 400 IU was what the skin could tolerate without the fear of risking skin cancer, because that is primarily how Vitamin D is created -- by sunlight on the skin.

Some doctors have gone as far as to say that one should get no sunlight exposure on one's skin to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Obviously, that wouldn't be right -- if millions of years of evolution had created that response. But thisdeficiency of Vitamin D, seems now to be recognized as a primary cause of osteoporosis in the elderly -- who don't get out in the sun enough, and was warned to limit their intake to 400IU a day.

The new higher levels, actually seem to be the missing ingredient in the human well-being and functioning equation. I've always noticed being particularly prone to that "seasonal affective disorder," but since I have been encountering many independent sources recommending the new higher doses, I thought maybe that was what I needed to boost my mood and energy -- and darn if I haven't noticed a dramatic difference immediately.

It is like the difference between living in a world of sunshine, and living in a world of continual darkness. Life evolved because of sunlight -- and it is impossible without it. So if you can take a capsule that can give you the equivalent of constant sunshine without any of the hazards from that exposure, it doesn't make sense not to take it, and not to make it the cornerstone of all one's nutritional supplements.

I was pretty sleepy and required a long nap everyday but since taking 2,000 IU 2x daily, I haven't felt that drowsiness anymore -- and my vision has greatly improved. That has bothered me for at least the last 15 years. I always suspected that time in the sun seemed to have a good effect on my vision.

But only several months ago, when I attended the new expansion of the medical facilities in Salem and attended most of the seminars on current topics of interest, I was stunned to hear of the new advice on Vitamin D -- particularly on osteoporosis, but then I started hearing it used on depression, and a whole lot of nontraditional remedies for virtually all the ailments. Vitamin D has usually been dismissed as not being being too important, and if it is, one should limit the intake rather than ensure a healthy dose of it.

It's probably the biggest difference I've ever felt virtually immediately. It's fairly cheap, although there will undoubtedly be expensive versions of it. I got 200 caps of 2,000IU at WalMart for $9. I've seen it on the Internet for $5 for the same quantities. I think I even saw it at Costco for a premium price.

In the past, I'd have to buy some tanning sessions to recharge myself during the sunless winter months in the Pacific NW. Many others, just get used to feeling depressed -- and have accepted that as the normal pattern of life without thinking there was anything they could do about it. Apparently there is -- once you realize that the dietary restrictions that have been observed for many years have been lifted in favor of a whole new prognosis.

It won't have been the first time that the medical profession has reversed itself completely in a new, improved and better understanding -- replacing the arbitrary traditions everyone had adopted without challenge and question -- that might have been the very source/cause of many problems, even in sunny climates where people have to avoid the sun because of its obviously damaging effects. In fact, in such places, one often takes extreme precautions to avoid sunlight at all costs -- like in the Middle East. One doesn't get a lot of sunlight being completely covered from head to toe.

In some less harsh sunlight, people have taken the precaution of using modern sunscreens, hats, dark glasses and other protective clothing -- which effectively does the same thing, more immodestly.

This is not unlike many cases in which the conventional wisdom and old wives tales have reversed themselves -- after many years of acceptance as the inviolable truths, that are finally questioned and held to the light of real inquiry. The most famous example is Christopher Columbus's assertion that the world was not flat and he was bound to prove it so by physically getting on a ship and sailing as far as they could -- discovering whole new worlds as they did. This frequently happens when it is conventional wisdom to hear that everything that could be discovered and known, is already discovered and known.

That is the familiar landmark that whole new worlds of discovery and invention, are on the cusp of human experience.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Maintaining and Increasing One's Range of Motion

If one could constantly maintain and increase one's range of motion (movement), quite obviously, one would never feel that they are in a deteriorating condition -- but rather have tangible validation that one is indeed getting better in an obvious and self-evident way. And if one can achieve that progress all one's life, there is very little more one needs to do.

If one can maintain that clarity of simplicity and purpose, all those conditioning exercises, rituals and theories, become quite unnecessary -- and those objectives can be achieved every day, with no extraordinary thought and effort -- and is simply the realization, that that is ultimately what one hopes to achieve.

However, people have a way of making the simple and easy very difficult and arduous, as though that gives the simple, more value -- rather than producing the confusion in the world. So as one reads the many articles written on fitness, one is likely to get farther from their objective than closer.

It is like asking, "How does this computer work?", when one merely wants to know, which button will turn it on -- while the overeager instructor, will duly recommend a four year course in computer science and instructions on how to apply for admission and obtain financial aid for the entire four years.

Most discussions on fitness immediately launch onto these many points that are simply a distraction from this simplicity of obvious purpose. What is the proper measure of fitness -- except as range of motion -- and not how much more one can do in a very limited range. That's how we identify the gifted and proficient in any field -- their range beyond what everybody else can do, and not that everybody is doing the exact same thing, but some are working harder or doing more, or faster.

That is true for the singer, dancer, athlete, writer, thinker, entrepreneur and inventor. The inventive, do that with any problem they encounter -- expand their range so that as many times as they have done the same thing, they have done each of them differently, and so it is a fresh experience, and not just a repetition of the same thing done over and over in exactly the same pattern of habit.

Naturally, people gifted in movement, would find a treadmill quickly boring, and so rather than being an aid to improvement, would dull their skills, sensitivity, and ability for fine-tuning an adjustment, and they would simply not return but rightfully find something interesting and challenging to do, that they can continue to grow with in their involvement.

That is the kind of conditioning that keeps one challenged and growing throughout one's life -- rather than in the traditional pattern of deteriorating all one's life as soon as they are no longer considered to be youths with lives yet to improve. Unfortunately, most people are conditioned to think they require somebody else to push them to improve further -- with inducements, grades and other awards, or they will lose interest and wither away.

One can then be convinced he needs the services of others to motivate them -- and while it may seem to work for a while, eventually, one has to be one's own motivator, or one increasingly gives this power to others, which is also the greatest benefit one hopes to get in their conditioning exercises -- for increasing self-mastery and understanding. Otherwise, if one is dependent on another for that motivation, when that person goes away, one is lost, and increasingly at the mercy of all the forces outside of oneself.

And so what one is doing in their conditioning, is finding out one's own limits, and moving beyond that a little bit more -- as a simple daily exercise, that eventually makes great achievements possible. It begins with that simple understanding -- and movement.